While its best known for its forest of neon lit streets and skyscrapers, there’s so much more to Hong Kong than its urban landscape.
Sure, you can enjoy a junk boat ride on the beautiful harbour or ride the Peak Tram to Victoria Peak for breathtaking views over the harbour without leaving the city, but it is worth heading a little further afield to the fringes of the city where you’ll find lush, green countryside, pristine beaches and rustic islands waiting to be explored. In fact, If you venture beyond the entertainment hub of downtown, you’ll discover that almost three quarters of Hong Kong is made up of countryside—rugged mountains, bijou islands and kilometre upon kilometre of indented coastline.
Surrounded as it is by sea, there are numerous beaches dotting Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and the New Territories including the popular and easily accessible Deep Water Bay, Repulse Bay and Stanley Beach, which is located just a short stroll from the famous Stanley Market. All three are official beaches, meaning that along with shark nets, there are life rafts and life guards on duty during swimming season.
North-east of the city, you’ll find the UNESCO-listed Hong Kong Global Geopark, a naturally and culturally significant geological wonder, spanning 50 square-kilometres of coastline. It features eight significant natural sites including islands, sea caves and uniquely shaped cliffs and volcanic rocks that date back 400 million years ago, across two distinct regions, Sai Kung Peninsula’s volcanic rock region, and Northeast New Territories sedimentary rock region.
On the water
Lovers of water sports can enjoy sailing, kayaking, kite boarding, wakeboarding, stand up paddle boarding and windsurfing, which are all popular pastimes on Hong Kong Island. The breathtakingly beautiful Tai Long Wan (also known as Ham Tin Wan), a bay on the east coast of the Sai Kung Peninsula, requires a little more effort to reach and you’ll need to be extra careful in the water as the currents can be treacherous, but it’s worth the effort for the jaw dropping views.
Take a hike
Active travellers can grab their boots and take a hike along one of the great trails. Dragon’s Back is one of the most popular, a ridge in southeastern Hong Kong Island. The relatively easy hike, between Wan Cham Shan and Shek O Peak, has been named Asia’s best urban hiking trail, and with its stunning views and a dazzling beach, where you can cool off after your efforts, it’s not hard to see why.
Hiking to the top of Kowloon Peak offers spectacular views of the city and for daredevils the famous suicide cliff provides incredible photo opportunities but the hike is challenging and definitely not for the faint of heart. If your fitness levels require something a little more gentle, find balance and calm hiking through one of Hong Kong’s feng shui woods, carefully preserved woodlands featuring plant species said to have strong feng shui significance and whose protection is closely linked to the fortune and development of the neighbouring villages. And, if you prefer to explore on wheels as opposed to by foot, rent a bike to cycle along the dam of Plover Cove Reservoir at Tai Mei Tuk or along one of Hong Kong’s many great mountain bike trails. Reference Great Outdoors guide?
Hong Kong’s outlying islands are also worthy of a visit. Lantau Island, which is home to the world’s largest outdoor seated bronze Buddha, is especially popular. But for a slice of authentic rustic Hong Kong, Lantau’s Tai O is the place. The ramshackle fishing village look may look like a movie set but as you wind your way through its streets past tiny temples, stopping only to indulge in the fabulous street-side treats in the market, including charcoal-grilled ‘eggettes’ and delectable fresh barbecued prawns and oysters, you’ll discover it’s the real deal. Take a ride along the river by boat or kaya, past the stilted houses teetering above the tidal flats and you may (don’t mention)that call the waters around Tai O home.